Love affairs take many forms but for the bicyclist, one’s love affair with the vehicle is a tricky one: moody, broody, a definitive give-and-take relationship. And oftentimes, many feel the car takes more than the bike in what should otherwise be a harmonious balance.
Love Letters—a video series project between creative firm Idea Group and Bike Long Beach launched last year—set out to address that relationship through a series of PSAs. The tale of the two lovers, bicycle and vehicle, weaves through live action and stop motion animation to show that they can not only share one’s another space, but in the words of Idea Group Principal Georgia Case, “become even more than friends.”
“This projects was ours,” Case said.
“I run a communications resources essentially: I bring in creative people to get the job done,” she continued. “Love Letters [was part of the Share Our Streets campaign’s PSAs collateral requirement] and it wasn’t a great deal of money or about money—it was about tapping into Long Beach’s creative reservoir.”
That creative reservoir included Margo Newman and Ryan Heintz of Gallery Pictures, with Heintz being a BFA film graduate from CSULB and Newman having worked for PBS, Discovery, and Walt Disney Imagineering. Behind the beautiful, minimalist animation is Laura Yilmaz, whose public work—in addition to her commercial and personal work—has always held a socially conscious tinge to it following PSAs regarding child abuse and a documentary about childhood obesity.
The collaborative effort—with that ever-present “ours”—seems seamless: each video not only looks like the direction of a single effort but also flows between each of Love Letter‘s five “acts.”
It isn’t always easy to have an open door between bikes and cars to get along (with getting-doored jokes being put aside—as Act II clearly addresses). But that was the precise point of advertising the star-crossed lovers.
Contrary to the now all-too-common angle of bicycling in urban environments that many media outlets new to bicycling hang onto with dear life—the roll-my-eyes death adventure that is “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! CAR VERSUS BIKE!”—the romantic script of Love Letters shows the tension from both sides.
When bicyclists ignore stop signs and when cars open doors without minding who might be passing by, it shows that this relationship is not a one-sided thing: rudeness is often exuded by everyone on the road and no one holds a special place on the hierarchy more than anyone else.
“You might find the pieces endearing, you might find them funny—but you’ll get the point no matter where you’re watching them in a friendly, accessible way,” Case said. “They’re easily sociable pieces that can spread around on social media. They fit in classrooms and appeal to younger kids with eye-candy.
The appeal of Love Letters spread beyond California, specifically with the City of Bellingham reaching out to Case to have “Long Beach” replaced with “Bellingham” in a duplicate series.
Much to the sorrow of sidewalks and Bellingham alike, due to the fact that the project was federally funded, such an endeavor was not possible. However, Idea Group had planned for this and—knowing they couldn’t just duplicate the campaign—specifically aimed for a digital platform so other cities can share something they all share with one another: safety.
“We’ve had a lot of comments from other cities—particularly given that Long Beach is a pro-bike/pro-walk city,” Case said. “We get requests all the time asking for us to reproduce materials and imagery made here in Long Beach—and the rules and regulations with federal make that far too difficult. But what you can do is give those people a creative nod, help them out—much like if someone comes around and sees our roundabouts or Bike Station and wants to do the same in their city. There’s nothing more flattering than imitation.”
Melissa Balmer, current Director of Pedal Love, was a creative team member of Idea Group for the creation of the Share Our Streets campaign for Bike Long Beach—and her proclamation of love for Case and Co.’s work is clear:
“Our intention with the entire Share Our Streets campaign was to create really engaging, personable, well-branded messaging across several platforms that illustrated clearly cars and bikes can absolutely share the road safely and, quite frankly, happily here in Long Beach.”
Believing that Idea Group outdid themselves, Balmer noted how they were ahead of the time in regard to balancing the fight for more bicycle rights and infrastructure while simultaneously educating people about the laws of the roads for bike or car.
“If you want me to be honest, I think Love Letters should be shown in every middle school and high school in the country.”
That sharing is unquestionably possible because these little videos can be stretched a long way: their share-ability, universal messaging, and aesthetic appeal make them applicable to spaces outside Long Beach.
After all, Long Beach is a living laboratory: it a creative city but one which takes safety—in this case, bicycling safety—seriously.
“Long Beach continues to present ideas and concepts that appeal beyond,” Case said. “We’re small enough to have the gall to be innovative in our ideas and big enough to implement those ideas on scale that is impactful. All of us that involved in livable streets knows that it is an ongoing journey: we will continue to inspire and everything we do is integral to making Long Beach better.”
Videos Courtesy of Bike Long Beach. Spanish Versions can be found here.